Ethington Saddles Up for New Season With ‘Much Ado About Nothing’
By Doug Carroll
GCU News Bureau
GCU’s Ethington Theatre isn’t afraid to add a spoonful of sugar to help the Shakespeare go down.
Last February, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” received a social-media updating, with characters text-messaging one another onstage as their mock Facebook profiles flashed on screens adjoining the stage.
This Friday, “Much Ado About Nothing” kicks off a new five-production series on campus with a Western twist, turning swords into guns and hopefully introducing the Bard of Avon’s work to previously unfamiliar audiences.
“It’s a completely different take,” says GCU senior Brad Beamon of Scottsdale, involved in both productions and playing the role of Friar Francis in the new one. “This gives people something to connect with. Everyone understands what a Western should look like.”
Over the past two years, the theatre community in metro Phoenix has come to understand what a GCU production looks like. The University’s theatre program was revived in the fall of 2010 after a hiatus, and last year’s series, which opened with “You Can’t Take It With You” and included “Dracula” as well as “Midsummer,” played to several sold-out houses.
With spectacular sets by Assistant Dean Bill Symington of the College of Fine Arts and Production and clever costuming by Nola Yergen, the Ethington shows — though inexpensive at $12 a ticket — are an entertainment value and they don’t cut corners in quality. Expert direction by Dean Claude Pensis and Instructor Michael Kary gets the most out of talented student performers, and more than a dozen ariZoni award nominations offer proof.
“The past two years have been phenomenal, and this year will be even better,” says Beamon, whose younger brother, Ryan, is a GCU freshman and also has a role in “Much Ado.”
“This is so professional. The caliber of excellence is high, and it’s nice to be pushed. The teachers can see me doing more than what I can see me doing.”
For years, Beamon has seen himself as a stage performer. He and Ryan are the sons of Kevin and Diane Beamon, who met in the theatre program when they were students at GCU in the mid-1980s. In fact, Kevin, Brad and Ryan all had roles in “The Pirates of Penzance,” which announced the program’s return two years ago.
Brad says his parents never tried to nudge him to attend GCU. But when he heard the theatre program was giving scholarships, he auditioned and received a full ride. He had performed in a number of musicals with the Scottsdale-based Christian Youth Theatre.
He’s one of the busiest students in the program, and that’s saying something. In addition to performing — he was in all six shows in 2010-11 — he writes plays and novels and records original music. Recently, he wrote the script for a film made by friends, and he’ll stay at the University for one more year in order to complete its digital-film program.
“If I’m not busy, I feel like something’s wrong,” he says.
A busy new year at GCU will include a reprise of “Handel’s Messiah” in GCU Arena and Ethington performances of Charles Dickens’ popular “A Christmas Carol” and Anton Chekhov’s challenging “Cherry Orchard.”
Here are the 2012-13 highlights:
“Much Ado About Nothing,” Aug. 31-Sept. 2 and Sept. 7-9, Ethington Theatre
“Beauty and the Beast” and “Comedy on the Bridge,” one-act operas, Oct. 12-14 and 19-21, Ethington Theatre
Improvisational comedy show, Oct. 24 and 25, Ethington Theatre
Masterworks choral concert, Oct. 26, First Southern Baptist Church
“A Christmas Carol,” Nov. 23-25 and Nov. 30-Dec. 2, Ethington Theatre
“Handel’s Messiah” featuring the Phoenix Symphony, Dec. 7, GCU Arena
Christmas choral concert, Dec. 11, First Southern Baptist Church
Winter dance concert, Dec. 12 and 13, Ethington Theatre
“Cherry Orchard,” Feb. 15-17 and 22-24, Ethington Theatre
Opera and Broadway choral concert, Feb. 22, First Southern Baptist Church
“H.M.S. Pinafore,” April 12-14 and 19-21, Ethington Theatre
Choral Union concert, Faure’s “Requiem” and Pärt’s “Te Deum,” April 23, First Southern Baptist Church
Spring dance concert, April 26 and 27, Ethington Theatre
Awards and Commencement choral concert, May 1, First Southern Baptist Church
Contact Doug Carroll at 639.8011 or firstname.lastname@example.org.